Your Personal Finance Pro http://yourpfpro.com Personal Finance for Young Professionals Sat, 13 Oct 2018 00:14:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 31591919 Tuning Up a Bicycle is Easier and Cheaper Than You Think http://yourpfpro.com/tuning-bicycle-easier-cheaper-think/ http://yourpfpro.com/tuning-bicycle-easier-cheaper-think/#comments Sun, 08 Dec 2013 13:45:27 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=3228 Ever since I moved up to Newport Beach a few months ago, I have been biking nearly everywhere.  When you don’t have a job, you have a lot more free time on your hands so you’re not in quite as much of a rush.  A lot of people think riding your bike takes significantly more […]

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Tuning Up a Bicycle is Easier and Cheaper Than You ThinkEver since I moved up to Newport Beach a few months ago, I have been biking nearly everywhere.  When you don’t have a job, you have a lot more free time on your hands so you’re not in quite as much of a rush.  A lot of people think riding your bike takes significantly more time than driving in a car, but once you’ve got a few weeks of riding under your belt, you can make surprisingly good time.  You might show up to your destination a little sweaty, but you’ll save a ton on gas and you get great exercise while you’re at it.  It’s also never a problem finding a parking spot on my bicycle!

I actually ended up buying a few bikes off Craigslist over the past few months – one older road bike and two newer hybrid bikes.  I didn’t like the road bike that much so I sold it(for a profit!) but kept the two hybrid bikes – a Raleigh Cadent FT0 and a Trek FX 7.2.  I got a great deal on both hybrid bikes and paid about 40% of what they retail for.  Both bikes were in good condition and rideable but they both didn’t shift very well.

Learning About Bicycles

I didn’t know anything about bikes before I moved to Newport and during my initial research phase it took me a few weeks just to figure out what type of bike I even wanted.  But once I learned all the basics, I was hooked.  I loved riding and I figured it made sense to spend the money to get tune-ups for my bikes so that they would run smoother and go faster.

At my local bike store, tune-ups ranged from $50-$150 depending on how much work you wanted to be done.  I don’t think that price is that outrageous but considering that my bikes only cost $200, I didn’t want to spend 50% of that on a tune-up that I would need again in a year or two.  Biking is just a hobby for me and I’ve always felt that the person doing the hobby is a lot more important than the equipment they use.

Craigslist For Hire

I went to my favorite website – Craigslist – and I actually found a few guys who were willing to tune up my bicycle for me and teach me along the way for $50.  The guy I ended up choosing seemed credible since he was on a professional cycling team, had been fixing up his own bikes for years, etc.  But I did have to take some risk since he could have turned out to be some joker who knew nothing about bikes.

I met up with him one afternoon and he taught me all about the basic tune-up techniques.  I could tell he wasn’t a professional since a couple things stumped him and he couldn’t completely tighten my brakes and get the wheels spinning perfectly straight, but he did help me out a ton with the shifting.

Just a Little Cleaning

One of the big problems I was having on both of my bikes was the shifting.  The shifters worked OK, but it wasn’t very smooth going from gear to gear, sometimes they would get stuck and other times they just wouldn’t go at all.  My Craigslist teacher showed me how to clean and lube the chain in about 10 minutes and when I got on the bike afterwards, the shifting was flawless!

I couldn’t believe how much of a difference it made.  I bought four products off Amazon and I’ll be able to tune up my bikes and other people’s bikes for years to come.  Here’s what I ended up buying.

Bike Stand

I don’t have a garage to work on my bike so I couldn’t get a heavy duty bike stand.  Instead, I got a nice adjustable height bike stand that is very small and compact.  I already tried it out and it works pretty well for how lightweight it is.  It doesn’t clamp down like a normal bike stand and suspend your bike in the air but it does let you clean the chain and do other similar minor repairs with the back wheel a few inches off the ground.

Cardboard

I didn’t have to buy this item but in order to clean the spaces in-between the rear cartridge, I cut up pieces of cardboard and slid them right in.  They fit perfectly and they actually do a really good job of removing all the gunk and grease.  You could do this before or after cleaning the chain but I like doing it before.

Simple Green Cleaner(De-greaser)

This was the cleaning product that my Craigslist teacher used and it worked really well so that’s what I bought.  There are hundreds of other ones that you could probably use just fine though.  I like Simple Green Cleaner because you can use it all around your house and not just on your bike chain.  I got a huge 1 gallon bottle(plus you will want to dilute it) for $16 on Amazon.

Finish Line Chain Cleaner

I’d never seen this contraption before but it’s a really cool way to clean your chain without having to take it off.  All you have to do is mix up some simple green with water to dilute it and then fill up the Finish Line Chain Cleaner.  Attach the chain cleaner onto the chain and pedal backwards really fast for 30-60 seconds and you’ll see the liquid turn dark with grease.  I cycled through about 5-6 times but that was only because my chain was so dirty.  It helps to pedal backwards as fast as you can in order to really get the brushes and scrubbers cleaning.

After you’re done cleaning, use a rag to dry the chain.

Finish Line Chain Lube

Since I live in a dry climate, I bought a small can of Finish Line Dry Teflon Lube.  Again, there are a lot of great chain lubes out there but this one seemed reasonably priced and had some of the best reviews on Amazon.  Once the chain is dry, squirt some of the lube onto the chain and cycle through the gears a few times in order to spread out the lube.  After you’re done, use a rag to dry the chain again and you’re all done.

I went for a quick ride after this step, and my gears were changing flawlessly.  If you notice some slipping in the weeks after a tune-up you can always spray a little lube on and see if that helps.

The Final Results

Since I got my tune-up lesson, I went out and bought all four of the items mentioned above and gave my second bike a tune-up.  It was a very easy process and took about 30 minutes.  Eventually, I think I could probably do both bikes at the same time in about 30 minutes.  I know there are a lot of other things you can do tune-up wise but I couldn’t believe how much of an impact just cleaning the chain had.  It was so easy and it made such a difference.

In the end, I spent about $60 on all the parts and equipment.  I’ll probably never run out of cleaner, the chain cleaner contraption should be good for years and the lube will probably last a year or two – but it’s only $8 for a new bottle.  Bikes can literally last a lifetime if you take great care of them and this is one of the most cost-effective ways to do so.

If you have tire mis-alignment or other major problems, you’ll probably need to take it in for a full tune-up but cleaning your chain every few months to a year depending on how much you ride can have a huge impact on performance and the life of your chain.

Readers, did you ever try and clean your chain yourself?  Did you know about these products that can make cleaning your chain a breeze?

-Harry @ PF Pro

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4 Tips for Brick and Mortar/Online Comparison Shopping http://yourpfpro.com/4-tips-for-brick-and-mortaronline-comparison-shopping/ http://yourpfpro.com/4-tips-for-brick-and-mortaronline-comparison-shopping/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 19:54:42 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=2701 If you’re like me, then you always compare prices in store to the prices online.  I do most of my shopping on Amazon but now that they charge sales tax, a lot of the brick and mortar businesses are starting to compete price-wise again.  There’s a lot of competition out there between retailers which is […]

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4 Tips for Brick and Mortar:Online Comparison ShoppingIf you’re like me, then you always compare prices in store to the prices online.  I do most of my shopping on Amazon but now that they charge sales tax, a lot of the brick and mortar businesses are starting to compete price-wise again.  There’s a lot of competition out there between retailers which is definitely a good thing for us, the consumers.  Any time you have multiple retailers fighting for your business, you know that prices will be driven down, you just have to know where to look.

I just helped my fiancee buy an Apple Macbook Air and the best price we found was through Best Buy.  We still made sure to do our due diligence and research all the various options online to see what was out there but none of them could beat Best Buy’s price.  It also helped that I had a couple hundred dollars in reward zone certificates and a bunch of 10% off Best Buy gift cards, but their sale price was still lower than the Apple website.

Here are my 4 tips for brick and mortar and online shopping:

1.  Check Reviews First

Before I make a purchase, I always check reviews on the product first.  Amazon is a great source for reviews since they have nearly every product available and you don’t have to buy the item to see the review.  The only problem with their system is that not all reviews are from verified buyers so there could be potential for abuse there.

2.  Don’t Be Afraid of Used

People tend to get caught up with having new things all the time.  Personally, I don’t care as long as it’s a solid product.  Things like looks and ‘shiny-ness’ are secondary to how the product actually performs.  There are some awesome deals to be had on used or even refurbished items on sites like eBay or Craigslist.  Obviously you’re taking a little more risk buying used but certain things like furniture have little to no risk at all.  You can test them out and if they work well and look good, there’s not much that’s going to change once you take it home.

You’ll often find a 30-50% mark down on a very good or like new item for sale on Craigslist/eBay compared to the retail price.

3.  Use Technology

I use the Amazon and eBay smartphone app to scan barcodes when I’m in store to compare prices.  That way, I know if I’m getting a good deal or if it might make sense to wait and buy the product later online.  I just used it today in fact at the drugstore since I needed some contact solution.  The price was $12.50 at CVS so I scanned it with my Amazon app and found it for $7.50 online.  It only took about 30 seconds and saved me $5.

4.  More Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean It’s the Best

Do you know anyone that has an obsession with buying the most expensive item since it has to be the best?  I know people like that and I tend to disagree with this principal big time.  Although there are a lot of expensive and nice products, you can nearly always find others on flash sale sites like hushhush that are less money and of similar quality.  Don’t assume that expensive means it’s a good product.

Readers, what tools do you use for comparison shopping?  Have you noticed that brick and mortar stores are starting to match the prices of online retailers more frequently(I sure have)?

– Harry @ PF Pro

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5 Ways to Save Money at Amusement Parks: Sea World San Diego http://yourpfpro.com/5-ways-to-save-money-at-amusement-parks-sea-world-san-diego/ http://yourpfpro.com/5-ways-to-save-money-at-amusement-parks-sea-world-san-diego/#comments Thu, 02 May 2013 01:44:52 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=2115 For some reason, the April showers haven’t quite hit San Diego like they normally do and the weather has been fantastic lately.  Warm days and a nice breeze are why I love living in Socal and this past weekend I decided it would be a good time to take my sister(age 5) to Sea World. […]

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5_Ways_Save_Money_Amusement_Parks_Sea_World_San_DiegoFor some reason, the April showers haven’t quite hit San Diego like they normally do and the weather has been fantastic lately.  Warm days and a nice breeze are why I love living in Socal and this past weekend I decided it would be a good time to take my sister(age 5) to Sea World.  Even though it wasn’t too crowded, there was still a ton of people there and I couldn’t help but think about how much money everyone was spending.

From admission tickets to stuffed animals and concessions, money was flying around almost as if Sea World was paying us to visit the park.  Unfortunately that’s not the case, but I thought of some travel tips that should save you anywhere from a little to a lot(depending on how extreme you are) of money at Sea World(or any park for that matter).  All it takes is a bit of planning, so onto the ways to save.

1.  Admission Tickets

I love buying things on Craigslist and I’ve now completed successful purchases with Disneyland and Sea World tickets.  You have to be careful on Craigslist because unfortunately there are some scammers out there, but as long as you use a common sense approach, your chances of getting screwed over will be very minimal.

You used to be able to just look at a ticket and if the stub was still attached it was still good.  But these days, a lot of tickets have scannable bar codes instead of a tear-off portion so don’t automatically assume your tickets will be valid if they look ok.  I actually receive hard tickets for my Chargers season seats but I can override them at any time and print out e-tickets.




If you’re buying from a private seller, try to get some personal information from them, like where they work or their home address.  Basically anything that you could use against them should the tickets turn out to be fakes.  I like dealing with small time ticket brokers since they offer the best discounts and can usually prove to you that they are legitimate.  Buying tickets on Craigslist isn’t for everyone though.  It can be nerve-racking since you won’t know for sure that your tickets are good until you step foot inside the venue.  There will always be a greater supply than demand when it comes to these types of tickets so don’t be scared to just walk away if something doesn’t feel right.

I found an ad on craigslist for $35 Sea World tickets and the seller I bought them from actually had a blog where she posted all her positive feedback.  She also offered to e-mail me the tickets and told me I wouldn’t have to pay until Monday at 11 am.  That was fine with me since now I assumed no risk of getting scammed out of my money.  It all worked out perfectly, I got the e-tickets morning of, went into the park and paid the next day via Chase QuickPay.  I ended up only spending $105($35 * 3) for 2 adult and 1 child tickets(full price would have been $226: $78 for adults and $70 for a child).

2.  Bring Your Own Food

I don’t really enjoy paying $5 for sodas and $10 for an average burger so I always plan ahead and bring food.  Most parks won’t let you bring actual food inside the park so instead bring a cooler and leave it in your car.  You can usually bring in small snacks like bags of chips, nuts, fruit snacks, etc (and of course water) so toss it all in a backpack and you’ll have something to snack on until lunch time.

If you’re on the adventurous side, you can always try and sneak in a full picnic at the bottom of your backpack or purse.  At a recent music festival I went to, I actually saw a couple people(not going to name any names) sneak in alcohol in a sunscreen bottle.  Just make sure you wash it out well!  At Sea World, all they did was poke around with a wooden stick for about half a second.  I almost felt ashamed that I didn’t try to sneak in more food.

We ventured the park for about 3 hours before we got hungry so we got our re-entry stamps and headed back to the car for a picnic.  It was actually nice to sit down, turn the A/C on for a while and relax and eat.

3.  Free Parking

I absolutely hate paying for parking but this was the one time I had to give in since there was nothing available within a reasonable distance.  I even did a quick google search the night before for free parking but came up dry.  It was ‘only’ $15 to park though so I figured it was worth it since we were going to spend most of the day walking already.  It also allowed us to leave the food close by so we could have a picnic lunch when we got hungry.




I think the best alternative to paying for parking would probably be public transportation.  There are usually lockers out front of most parks so you could probably leave a cooler or two there if you’re set on picnic’ing, otherwise take the bus and spend all the money you save on junk food inside the park.

4.  Be Careful of Kid Traps

I finally realized why all these rides end in a gift shop: it’s for the kids.  My sister nearly broke into tears when I told her I wasn’t going to buy her this cute baby beluga whale stuffed animal.  Eventually, I succumbed to her superpowers and we went back and I bought it for her(at least it was only $10).  But you do have to be careful when you’re visiting with kids since there are a lot of things they will want.  I told my sister she could pick out one thing and the whale was what she chose.  That made it a lot easier later on in the day, when she wanted a turtle, dippin’ dots, ice cream, etc haha.

5.  Accomodations

I’ve never had to stay overnight to visit an amusement park but I could only imagine how much that would cost(especially with kids).  I’d try and find a friend that lives nearby and stay with them or maybe use up one of my free hotel nights from a credit card sign-up bonus.

Readers, are there any other tips that I should know about?  I’m pretty lucky to live within 100 miles of 10 major theme parks so I’m sure there are a couple things I haven’t thought of.

-Harry @ PF Pro

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5 Easy Ways to Save Money Every Month http://yourpfpro.com/5-easy-ways-to-save-money-every-month/ http://yourpfpro.com/5-easy-ways-to-save-money-every-month/#comments Mon, 11 Mar 2013 01:42:36 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=1876 Today, I have a guest post from fellow blogger Kyle at Rather Be Shopping.  Feel free to head on over to his blog after reading this article and check out some of his other posts! Having recently gone through a major blow to my income, my wife and I had to do some serious re-accessing […]

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Today, I have a guest post from fellow blogger Kyle at Rather Be Shopping.  Feel free to head on over to his blog after reading this article and check out some of his other posts!

5_ways_save_money_now_rather_be_shoppingHaving recently gone through a major blow to my income, my wife and I had to do some serious re-accessing of our monthly budget and look for as many ways to reduce spending as possible. After a few brain-storming sessions, here are the first five things we did to reduce our monthly expenses. I can honestly say that these five things alone will save us over $1,300 this year.

Stop Paying for Premium Cable

Call your cable or satellite provider to cancel your service and they will quickly offer you incentives not to leave.  These often include free movie channels, but more importantly up to $20 off your monthly bill. They want your business really bad and know that once you leave, you probably will never come back. Try this today and I think you’ll be really surprised with what they offer you to stay. Make sure you are satisfied with your new monthly rate and if you are not, cancel it and go with a competitor who offers a low introductory monthly rate.

Pay Bills Online

Not only will you save money on stamps, but you’ll also save a lot of time. You can easily sit down at your computer and pay 5 bills in one minute. If you pay an average of 12 bills a month, you will save over $66 a year in stamp costs. Plus the delivery time on electronic payments averages 2 days which allows you to keep your money in your account longer earning you some extra money in interest every month. If you don’t currently use online bill pay because you are not computer savvy, you really should reconsider. It is not complicated and 15 minutes of your time learning the basics is well worth it.

Consider Alternatives to a Gym Membership

I started riding my bike a couple months ago in lieu of a gym membership. Not only do I save money, but I get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of the area where I live. Another excellent option is a brisk walk or jog in your neighborhood in the evenings or before work. Also, consider buying used home gym equipment off Craigslist, there currently are some great deals to be had as people start to sell their rarely used equipment and weights they bought after the New Year.

Waiting Period for Major Purchases

Instill a 48 hour “cooling down” period before making a major purchase. After the 48 hour period has elapsed you will often lose the “buyers urge” and have moved on with your life. My wife and I use a $50 threshold and I must admit that it really does work. If you are the personality type who tends to shop or buy something on a whim to create some happiness you really should consider this tip. The mind is a powerful tool and if you can train it to do something else when the desire to buy hits, you can really create some positive buying habits.

Always Buy Second Hand

If you shop around enough, no matter what item you’re looking for, you can bet there is a good deal to be had somewhere. As long as it gets the job accomplished, who cares if it’s brand new or not. Always search Craigslist, eBay, and local thrift stores before you make the plunge into something brand new. If you do this consistently for an entire year you’d be amazed how much money you can save.

There are many ways to save money each month and this list just scratches the surface. What other easy ways do you reduce your monthly spending? I look forward to your comments.

Kyle James has been helping consumers save money one dollar at a time at Rather-Be-Shopping.com with online coupon codes, printable coupons, and frugal living tips.

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A Guide to Buying on Craigslist http://yourpfpro.com/a-guide-to-buying-on-craigslist/ http://yourpfpro.com/a-guide-to-buying-on-craigslist/#comments Mon, 13 Aug 2012 05:16:29 +0000 http://yourPFpro.com/?p=1004 I’ve been looking for a refrigerator on craigslist for a couple months now and I finally found one.  My current refrigerator was in good working condition, but it was pretty old and I wanted to get a nice stainless steel one for when I rent out my condo in a year or two.  Renters and […]

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I’ve been looking for a refrigerator on craigslist for a couple months now and I finally found one.  My current refrigerator was in good working condition, but it was pretty old and I wanted to get a nice stainless steel one for when I rent out my condo in a year or two.  Renters and buyers love to see stainless steel appliances 🙂  Since I wasn’t in a rush, I was able to take my time and really wade through the cruddy listings and be picky.  I ended up getting a nice 2 year old GE Side by Side for $340 including delivery and haul away from an appliance trader I found on craigslist.

There are some great deals to be had on craigslist but unfortunately, there are also some people who are out there to ruin it for everyone.  So when buying on craigslist you need to follow these steps to make sure you get what you want for the price you want.

1.  Comparison Shop

If you’re looking for an item like an appliance or furniture be sure to go into a physical retailer and see what they charge for it.  The whole point of buying used on craigslist is so that you don’t have to pay the retailer mark-up.  If the difference between new and used isn’t more than 20-30% I don’t think it’s worth it to buy it used on Craigslist.  I’d rather use a credit card and buy it at a retailer where I have credit card protection, and the ability to return it should I change my mind or the item stops working.  There are no returns on Craigslist so you want to make sure the opportunity cost is worth it to buy used.

2.  The Search

If you’ve decided to go the Craigslist route, here comes the fun part.  Finding the exact item you want for the price you want is usually a tedious task but I have some great tips that will ensure you get your item.  I usually start off with a basic keyword search to see what’s available.  If there is not much inventory at the time, you can use a site like Search Tempest to search multiple cities at once.  This should give you a good idea of what’s available at what price.

If you’re looking to pay as little as possible, then you will need to search a lot more frequently than someone who is less concerned about getting the lowest possible price.  You can be picky if you don’t need the item immediately, otherwise you may need to spend a little more.  I usually search for items three to four times a day so that I’m able to pursue any leads almost instantaneously.  If you only search 1-2 times a day, you should use a service like Feed My Inbox to send you the RSS feed every day.  I also use a chrome plugin called Craigshunter to save searches and notify me of new listings.

3.  Offer Low

Don’t be afraid to throw a low ball offer in.  If you can’t agree on a price, there will always be another one.  Craigslist is mutually beneficial to buyers and sellers in that way because there is so much supply and demand.  When you make a low offer, give the seller a reason to sell to you.  You don’t need to lie, but use the facts to your advantage.  Here are some examples:

  • It’s my girlfriend’s birthday and I’d really like to take her to this show, can you give me the tickets for $100?
  • I’m a college student so I can only afford $60 for the couch, is that ok?

Get the picture?  When you appeal to a seller’s emotion they tend to overlook the lower offer.

4.  Be Ready to Go

As soon as you’ve targeted an item go get it.  Do not wait!  As a seller, I tell all enquirers that the item is still available until I have the money in my hand.  The reason is there are a lot of buyers who can be very flaky.  Don’t be one of them, as soon as you verbally agree on a price and a meeting place go get your item.

5.  Inspect the Item

There are no returns on Craigslist so always make sure the item works as described.  Test every feature and ensure that it’s in working order.  If you get home and realize something is wrong, don’t expect the seller to be there to help you out.  Although most sellers are selling in good faith, don’t take their word as the above all truth.  If they say something works, be sure to try it out.  Turn it on, turn it off, wait a few minutes and try again, etc.

If you have concerns or the item is different than what appeared in the picture, this is usually a bad sign.  Don’t sweat it, tell them you’ll come back later or sleep on it.  You are under no obligation whatsoever, regardless of what the seller says.  If you are a newbie, bring a friend as a second pair of eyes.  They don’t have to be an expert in what you’re buying, but it’s always nice to have a second set of eyes.  They may see something that you didn’t even notice.

6.  Bring Cash 

Nothing says you’re a serious buyer more than cash.  Bring however much you agreed on and if you find any minor defects, this is the time to ask for a price reduction.  If you’re ok with the item, pay and be on your way.

I’ve bought and sold everything from furniture and electronics to cars and tickets on Craigslist.  Most of my purchases have worked out great, but there have been a couple hiccups here and there.  I learn with every sale though, and if you follow these tips, you should be on your way to some mega savings.  Remember though, there is inherent risk with buying on Craigslist.  But you have to be willing to take on some risk if you don’t want to pay the retailer mark-up.

Readers, do you buy and/or sell on Craigslist?  What’s the biggest item you’ve ever bought?

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